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The Curse of the Luddite God

Added: Tuesday, January 1st 2008 at 11:07am by robertflynn
Related Tags: poetry, art

The Curse of the Luddite God

A certain man chipped at a fallen limb to make it easier for his wife to carry to the fire.  His stone ax hit another stone and sparks flew.  Some sparks landed on his arm.  Others struck his bare chest.  He laughed.  His skin was too tough for sparks.  He struck the rock again.  He would amuse her when she returned.  Perhaps make her jump in fear when a spark touched her.  

Some sparks fell in a rabbit’s nest and smoke came forth.  The man stepped back.  His woman stepped behind him.  He pushed her away.  If he had to run he didn’t want her in his way.  He watched the smoke.  His woman cried quietly fearing the rabbit spirit.  He bent closer to look.  He blew at the smoke and jumped back.  A tiny flame broke forth.  

The man froze not knowing whether to run to the village for safety, throw dirt at the fire to kill it or throw sticks at the fire to feed it.  He looked at his woman.  He looked to see if evil watched to see what he did.  He threw a twig on the fire and it ignited.  His woman gasped.  He picked up the twig and poked it at her and she fled.  He considered fleeing after her, less brave when he had no need to show it. 

He threw a stick on the fire and the fire grew.  He backed up and searched the trees and grass behind him.  Perhaps this was an evil place.  He picked up a limb, threw it on the fire.  Sparks flew and flames leapt.  This was an evil place but God had given him fire.  He selected a branch, held it to the fire until it ignited and carried it to the village.

His woman had told them what had happened and everyone was huddled at the entrance to the cave.  Women cried and children whimpered.  Men watched ready to flee.  A priest emerged from the darkness of the cave.  There had been no terrifying claps, no flashes of light signifying that God had given them fire if they could find it.  “Where did you get fire?” the priest asked.

“I made it,” the man said, not daring to meet his eyes, half-doubting himself.

“You lie,” said the priest who guarded the fire in the cave.  “Only God can create fire.  It is his gift to us.”

The man looked at his woman who huddled with the others, holding her children close.  “I made it.  God gave it to me” the man said fearfully.  “She will say so.” But his woman, speechless with fear, shook her head no.

The priest stamped out the fire.  “If you made it you can make it again.  If God gave it to you ask him to give it to you again,” he said.  

The man fell on his face before the cave.  He pulled his hair, he beat his head, he cried aloud but there was no fire.  “I must go into the woods.” the man said.  “I must find the stones that speak to God.”  But he knew that God would not give him fire again because he had permitted the priest to destroy his creation. 

In despair and unbelief he stumbled through the woods until he came upon the cold remains of the rabbit’s nest.  He blew on it but there was no smoke.  He picked up another rock and hit the first one but there were no sparks.  Crying aloud to God he picked up rock after rock until he found a sacred rock like the one on his ax.  He hit the rock with it and there were sparks.  He ran in search of a sacred rabbit’s nest but could find none.  He found a bird’s nest and because it was all he could find he carried it to the rocks and chipped sparks into it, blew until smoke burst into flame.  

He carried to the village the rocks that made sparks and a small nest that transformed sparks into fire.  While the priest watched heresy and the villagers looked to the cave for retribution, the man showed them how to worship.  He struck sparks into the nest until a wisp of smoke appeared.  Kneeling, he blew life on the smoke and a tiny flame arose.

“Bring twigs,” the man said and boys ran at his bidding.  “Bring branches.”

The fire grew as the man fed it and the villagers watched in awe.  They had never before had a fire outside the cave.  The fire inside the cave came from God and only the priest could tend it.  Every morning the villagers bowed before the cave and made offerings and the priest gave them access to God’s fire.  

The man’s wife knew that he was awkward and lazy because he was always the first to return from a hunt even if he was empty-handed or brought nothing but rocks.  Now she too was struck with wonder.  Who was this man who could make fire?  Proudly she stood beside him, her arm linked through his.

Boys grabbed flaming sticks and ran into the night lighted by the fire.  Only the priest saw evil.  “You have made yourself God,” the priest said.  “Only God can make fire.”

“No,” the man said.  “God gave me the power to make fire.”

“You have destroyed the faith of your people.  Who will believe in God if man can create fire?  You must leave the village.”

The man stared at the priest.  His wife clung to his arm in fear.  The man turned to the villagers.  “Our lives are better if I can make fire when we need it,” he said.  “Surely God wants that.”    

The priest waved a rod threatening the man.  “You see good but only fire from God is good.  This fire will bring destruction.”  After the priest went into his cave the villagers sat by the fire dreaming of the future when their children could make fire where ever they wanted, perhaps some day have fire in their huts.

After everyone had gone to bed the wind rose, blowing embers on dead grass at the edge of the village.  The grass ignited and driven by the wind, the fire swept through the village.  Three children were burned.  Only the cave offered refuge.

At first light the villagers assembled before the ruined village.  The priest was wroth and waxed indignant.  “This fire was not from God,” he said, pointing his rod at all of them.  “This fire was evil.  Only God can give sacred fire and only the priest can tend it.”  He struck the ground with the rod.  “Man must not attempt to be God.  You,” he said, pointing the rod at the man.  “You have put on the mask of god and now you will destroy the world if we do not destroy you.”

The man looked at the faces of the villagers and they were hard.  They seized him and dragged him from the village.  The priest picked up the rocks the man had brought to the village and threw them at him.  The others also picked up rocks and threw at him.  His wife threw one rock then turned to lead the children away.

The priest brought sacred fire from the cave and gave fire to the others who picked up pieces of wood.  Together they threw the fire on the man’s quivering body until it stopped moving.  

“Henceforth there will be no fire but the fire that comes from God,” the priest said.  “Rocks that make sparks are evil and whosoever touches them will be condemned.”

But a certain man troubled himself.  If rubbing rocks together could create fire, what would happen if he rubbed sticks together?  Did worship require a nest if dry grass could turn into fire?   

See my website:  www.robert-flynn.net

User Comments

Excellent! Did you write this, Robert? A wonderful work with a pointed message![THUMBUP]
Superb! Is this your own work? As a recovering semi-Luddite myself (still cherish Postman's ideas in TECHNOPOLY, tho), I find it to be a wonderful reworking of the story of Prometheus.[THUMBUP]

All right. If the bible had been writ like this, I might of read the whole thing.

Well read the whole thing anyway. Read it as a library and not as a book. Some of it is poetry. Some is history, some biography, some law, some hero tales, some folk lore, some philosophy, but for me, the most important are the Gospels that tell of the life and teaching of Jesus.

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